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Let’s say I drive a shiny red convertible. (Let’s call it a Jaguar F-type, because a girl can dream.) Let’s say I park my baby on the side of the street, hood down. I dangle my keys in the air for a few seconds and then I leave them on the dashboard and walk away. What happens next? Someone steals my Jag.
Was I asking for it? Sure.
Should the thief still be prosecuted?
Crimes and their consequences may seem like done deals when it comes to belongings, taxes or people of color carrying drugs. But when it comes to crimes of sexual violence, this relationship is less secure for some reason. If the Jaguar turned into a college woman (surprise — the car was a metaphor) and the car thief turned into a rapist, there is no guarantee that the offender would face any legal consequences. There’s actually no guarantee of the victim reporting the crime in the first place. Only one in five rapes go reported in the U.S.
If that statistic comes as a surprise to you, it shouldn’t. Sexual assault is a notoriously difficult crime for women to report, with hundreds of cases of law enforcement, friends of the rapist, and even friends of the victim finding ways to blame the victim for what happened to him or her.
The epidemic of victim-blaming is one of the greatest contributors to rape culture on and off college campuses. But there is a growing consensus that it’s the worst at universities: most people estimate that one out of every five women who enter college will be sexually assaulted before they graduate.
Newer studies suggest that a member of a fraternity is three times more likely to commit rape than any other college student.
While it might seem like common sense to point to a culture of hyper-masculinity and competition — for example, thinking of sex in terms of “scoring” — as an underlying cause of this terrifying statistic, many people don’t see it that way. Straight from the mouth (thumbs?) of a YouTube comment about this video is just one of thousands of examples of people blaming survivors for their own assault:
One of our own CU Buffaloes, as seen in the video below, believes that “girls dressing up in extremely provocative outfits and drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol” are basically asking to be assaulted.
It’s obvious that women can take certain measures to ensure their safety at parties — most girls are taught from young ages to never leave their drinks unattended, to always take a buddy and so on. But even if I were more careful with my precious Jaguar, there’s still a chance of a bad person coming to steal it. In such an event, law enforcement officials would take my report seriously and they would do their best to make sure the thief was dealt appropriate consequences.
If we live in a world where survivors of sexual assault aren’t given the same time of day as victims of auto theft, then we live in a world where women are less valuable to society than cars — and where, if we follow a previous statistic to its disturbing conclusion, fraternity brothers ascribe women with one-third of that value.
CU has been under federal investigation for the past year as one of many colleges found in violation of the Title IX criteria for handling sexual assault cases on campus. While representatives of the investigation assure us that they’re doing everything in their power to address the problem, the BBC’s video sheds enough unflattering light to show us that they are not doing nearly enough.
The video’s title reads: “Are fraternities doing enough to stop campus rape?” But we should be asking ourselves: “Are campuses doing enough to shut down the menace of college fraternities?”
Contact CU Independent Opinion Section Editor Lauren Thurman at lauren.thurman.colorado.edu.